‘Summit heralds start of new Negros'
on Friday, September 8, 2017
By Carla P. Gomez
Twenty-one resolutions were approved yesterday to ensure the survival of the country's sugar industry and to further boost the growth of Negros beyond its once mono-crop economy.
The resolutions were approved at the end of the “Sugar and More Negros Summit”attended by industry stakeholders and government officials at the Sugarland Hotel in Bacolod City.
“The Sugar and More Negros Summit heralds the beginning of a New Negros, no longer willing to take the ‘business-as-usual' route, but now ready to chart a new course towards a diversified and robust economy,” former governor Rafael Coscolluelasaid.
But Coscolluela, who is the Negros Occidental provincial government consultant on investment promotions and trade, said “We have a long climb ahead of us, and the biggest challenge will be in getting everyone on board.”
As was said some years back, "the future welcomes those who change with the times; the past is littered with dinosaurs that could not", he added.
Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. said a unified road map for the sugar industry is needed to prevent it from becoming a sunset industry, along with the push for the success of alternative industries to ensure the province's continued growth.
Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) said that aside from sugar, the best industry that he sees for Negros Occidental is tourism with its good food and hospitable citizens.
“The province should diversify, if we remain amonocrop industry we might get caught and realize one day that it is too late,” he said.
The agriculture sector in this country does not move forward or develop because there is no reinvestment caused by the uncertainty on whom the land belongs, Benitez said.
“We are here because it cannot be business as usual, it is high time we do a makeover to be better prepared for what will happen to our industry,” Ma. Regina Martin, representing the sugar sector, said.
Roberto Montelibano, representing the business sector,called on the private sector to pour in more investments beyond sugar in Negros to boost economic growth.
EXCISE TAX MORATORIUM
Dino Yulo, spokesman of the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines, said they are calling for a six-year moratorium on the imposition of excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages.
He also called on stakeholders to join the lobby in the Senate to push for the moratorium.
Coscolluela, on the other hand, said it should not be implemented at all because it is counterproductive for being anti-poor, anti-consumer and anti-farmer.
Coscolluela said the 21 resolutions approved yesterday will be submitted to concerned agencies for action.
He stressed the need to reactivate and strengthen the Sugar Industry Development Council to harmonize all efforts to boost the sugar industry.
There is also a need to rightsize the Sugar Regulatory Administration workforce, which was previously downsized, to carry out added responsibilities required of it under the Sugarcane Industry Development Act, Coscolluela said.
Among the resolutions needing legislative action are the calls for the Department of Budget and Management to comply with the spirit of the SIDA Law, and for congressmen to revive the AVA (Alternative Ventures Agreement) Bill to encourage consolidation of lands into viable sizes, with appropriate safeguards.
Opposition to excise taxes on fuels and sugar sweetened beverages was also urged, along with a lobby for enforcement of anti-GMO Ordinance to fight High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Also urged isadherence to the intent and spirit of the Renewable Energy and Biofuels Laws and a study of a provincial ordinance creating a Negros First Development Corporation or Authority to serve as an investment catalyst.
Industry reform measures were also urged such as a cane transport rationalization study, establishment of mill standards, and financing for product diversification.
Also urged is national government support for the Alliance for Negros Island Development Agenda to harmonize infrastructure development through CRID (Coordinating Roads and Infrastructure for Development).*CPG